Why You Should Want Your Daughter To Pursue STEM
- Because you want to see her kick butt at everything she does of course!
- But besides that, why STEM? Because since 1990, the amount of people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields has nearly doubled, going from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. The demand for employees in the STEM fields will continue to be strong for at least the next decade, and likely longer. On top of that, these jobs pay better than the average job, and expect continued wage growth.
- Because the world will be a better place if she lives in a world with less inequality. STEM professions lift people out of poverty in one generation. While we cannot solve poverty in one generation, we can certainly have an impact on those we reach, particularly our underserved students–many of whom are first generation American and first generation college bound–who need to see the life altering power of STEM education. The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world in STEM job candidates and we need to harness the other half of the species’ brain power.
One Problem Though
Here’s the problem though, dads: Women are not entering the M in STEM fields at the same rates as their male counterparts. Before we bring out the age old stereotype of “girls aren’t good at math,” let’s pull some facts out. We know girls perform as well as boys on math tests, and at some ages, better. We cannot place the blame on aptitude. Rather, the issue is that girls are self selecting out of STEM careers. Whether it is because they think these subjects are uncool, they don’t see enough examples of female role models in these fields, or they think they will be unwelcome in these professional environments, our girls are inadvertently closing a lot of doors on highly meaningful, enriching career options. The good news is that because we know this issue has societal/cultural roots and not skill-based ones, we can solve it socially, and that’s where you come in, dads.
Things You Can Do To Help Your Daughters
Find projects in STEM that help others
Girls (and boys for that matter) often believe that STEM subjects are not a means to change the world. This could not be further from the truth. Emphasize with your daughters that STEM subjects are actually inherently all about solving problems and that if they truly want to change the face of a neighborhood, a city, a state, the nation, they will need to know how the numbers work to get a seat at the table.
Change the stereotype of people who are good at math and science
We all know the stereotype: glasses, pocket protector, likely male, tucked in shirt. Many girls who are good at math throughout their childhood lose interest during adolescence due to negative social perceptions. They see their female teachers struggling with math at the whiteboard, and that math anxiety transfers over to them. Or they fear that being good at math will make them uncool. Instead, show them highly successful people who use STEM subjects in their jobs.
Teach a growth mindset
One of the most harmful things causing women to drop out of STEM subjects is perfectionism. STEM subjects are all about getting things wrong over and over again, but “failing upward.” Don’t let your girls quit after small failures. Encourage persistence, not perfection.
Related to the last one, teach your girls that failures are wonderful learning opportunities, not things to fear. Repeat after me: It’s okay to fail. It’s not okay to not try. Now repeat that to your daughters. It’s an old piece of advice but it still holds true.
Praise the process, not the outcome
This goes for any child, but reward children for the hard work they put in, not the end product. It builds confidence and shows kids to take pride in the work they are putting in. This also helps reduce perfectionism, as kids learn to value the journey, not the destination.
Teach them about successful women (or even better, introduce them)
Many girls run into the a common problem in a variety of STEM fields: most girls are not exposed to positive STEM role models. Here at Rock The Street, Wall Street, we address this problem by introducing girls to female financial role models in their community. Many of our students who come from communities where women do not occupy those roles say how the program opens their eyes. We tell them, “If you can see it, you can be it.”
Consider all-female learning opportunities
Even if your daughter is in a coed school, try finding an all-girls extracurricular activity, we know that girls learn STEM subjects better when it is just them in the room. Their confidence goes up and they feel more comfortable raising their hand and participating. It’s the reason we decided to offer our program to only girls and provide them with female teachers and mentors.
STEM subjects and their history are filled with fascinating stories. Find good ones (particularly with female subjects) where girls can see people who work in STEM overcome adversity and use creativity.
Emphasize the skills that fuel STEM subjects
Instead of talking up science or math themselves, encourage curiosity, creativity, problem solving, etc. These are the skills that make people succeed at STEM professions more than anything else. For girls who are not particularly interested in STEM subjects, this can help them see the value.